Friday, February 24, 2012

Wasn't so crappy after all & Happy Friday!

Happy Friday all!
A hasty sketch & ink office-special. He needs to be
redone with greater care. Lord Fox.
I had a wonderful birthday; almost flawless—the first one I can think of that was so romantic and intimate. My co-workers took me to lunch as promised at my very favourite Sushi-joint (I love how fresh their food is and I’m addicted to their Florida roll), it’s SOOOooooo good. I pigged out; we shared a Florida roll, of which I had the lion’s share because I’m a savage—and I had the bento I love so much with sushi. The restaurant knows me pretty well, there was a time when I would eat there twice a week sometimes, and so when they found out it was my birthday, they played the birthday music and the whole restaurant broke into song while the server brought me a ball of green-tea ice-cream with a candle in it.

My coworkers were sweet and thoughtful. They treated, and we ate until we were so full we could barely breathe. Back at the office, they presented me with a balloon and some begonias, and a card and a badly sung rendition of Happy Birthday.

I then drove home after work to discover my husband waiting for me inside the back door holding a package. A little backstory here, everyone knows I love the American Duchess’s Pemberly shoes. I’ve wanted them from the moment she released the first design concepts, but since we are always in a financial pinch, there’s no way I could justify the expenditure, not to mention explain to a husband who has little to no patience for my expensive costuming hobby, why I reallyreallyreally want this shoes. So when the American Duchess posted an announcement of having some ‘imperfect’ shoes for sale, I thought, hey, maybe he’ll let me get at least imperfect ones for my birthday. I sent him a link, to which he did not respond, so I was pretty sure he probably rolled his eyes upon receiving it and promptly deleted the email.

So excited, I took them with me into the car to
admire them on the way to the restaurant.
To my surprise, when I came into the house, I saw in his hand a rather clumsily-wrapped box suspiciously sized similarly to a shoebox, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I smooched him and grabbed my present, excited to have something to open on my birthday (another rarity). I tore it open and it was still in the shipping box, but when I saw the shipper’s name on the tag I started squeeing like an idiot. I tore it open and pulled out the pemberlies, my eyes glistening with tears.

He then informed me that these were not the ‘imperfects’ but the ‘perfect’ shoes as he watched me turn them and examine them for flaws. More squees ensued, and in spite of being almost late for our dinner date, I insisted on clickety-clacking around the house in them like an idiot just to see how disgustingly comfortable they are. For anyone who knows how English Country Dance can take a toll on one’s feet because of the flats we wear, you would surely appreciate the comfort of these shoes. They’re AWESOME! I’m so excited. I just ordered leather paints for them.

Anyway, we went to my other favourite restaurant; the Rendezvous Grill, it’s a local place we go to for most of our special occasions, they have really great food and you can go in a pair of jeans and it’s okay. Dan walked right into the dining area instead of waiting for seating, and brought me to a table with a reserved plaque on it, and a vase of pink roses and pale yellow carnations. Apparently he’d stopped by the restaurant ahead of time to drop off the flowers so they would be on the table when I got there. Aw!
Yes, my cellphone camera is a joke.
It was a delicious dinner. And yes, I had my snails; don’t yuck my yum. Escargots have been a favourite of mine since I was very little. In fact, one of my favourite treats when I was little was whelk sea snails that were cooked in a super-peppery broth. You could only get them in certain spots, but they were SO good. We also ate periwinkles; they’d serve them to you in a paper cone, just like fries, and they were yummy as hell, if not challenging to wrench their tiny, coiled bodies from their shells using the pin or toothpick sold with the cooked critters. Don’t wrinkle your nose at that! I’m pretty sure wherever you live there’s something *I* would consider gross; but I’d try it before I said yay or nay, and I wouldn’t go: EWWWW! (There are some small exceptions; when it’s insects, eyeballs, testicles, or anything worm or grub-like, I’ll pass). It’s my way. It’s all about culture. Suck it up!

I topped my meal off with a piece of cake with chocolate, mascarpone and drizzles of Grand Marnier (why is that SO good with chocolate? It’s evil). Anyway, the whole evening was nice (save for one hiccup that was completely unnecessary but happened anyway; I merely shoved my grumpiness about it until the next day. Days like Wednesday was are so rare, I wasn’t going to let something smirch it for me) and I went home glowing with happiness. Best. Birthday. Ever.

Un p'tit morceau de gateau. :)
Birthdays are the only day that’s truly yours. Holidays are about family, weddings about everyone else BUT you, even if you think otherwise, but birthdays, that’s different. I used to think I was selfish to expect to feel welcome and special on the day that marks my birth, but I have come to realize there’s nothing selfish about that at all, and anyone should be able to spend their birthday in a way that makes them happy to be alive. It’s the whole point of celebrating it. There are always forces out there that willfully or unknowingly choose to do things to make you feel less than happy, which sucks. For me, that has unfortunately been the case more often than not—so when days like Wednesday happen, I hold onto them tightly. I do love my husband. But more so for his attention to the details that mattered so much, the expensive shoes I wanted badly but really did not need; the flowers on the table; his smile when I saw my gift.

Satan called but only to get my sister’s number. My eldest sister is out of the country so she didn’t call, and my brother and his family are too wrapped up in their own crisis to think of it. My middle sister, Helen called and sang me the ‘zoo’ version of the birthday song, which I punctuated with a couple of monkey ‘oohs’ when she finished singing. LOL. Satan felt bad and shoved some cash into my hand yesterday, ordering me to buy new riding jods because my old ones are falling off my butt. “Joo look layke a homeless woomahn,” she said.

She’s coming up tomorrow, I’m making mussels Belgian-style. I’m not sure about fries though. Maybe some baked ones, not sure. Then I’d like to focus on fixing and finishing up the bodice for my habit—which will require me to measure out and cut sleeves, which his always fun.

Oh, and I forgot--the fox drawing reminds me... Someone asked me recently if I knew what that screaming noise was in P&P '95 I think during an outdoor take looking at one of the great houses, maybe Pemberly, could be Netherfield, who knows... but the answer is a that is a red fox screaming.  It's a haunting, skin-crawling sound that upon my visits to the UK as a child to see my two best friends, would scare the bejeezus out of me.

Anyway, that’s it for this lovely Friday.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Happy %$#@& Birthday, Hungarican Chick.

Today is my birthday.  Be prepared for whining. I whine on my birthday. Birthdays for me are something I have come to dread—because there’s the selfish expectation, and then the disappointing reality. And it’s rarely a day where I am not finding myself upset by being forgotten by certain people, and upset at myself for feeling negative when others are doing things to make it a good day for me.  I know that the people who apparently matter won’t change; they will continue to forget my birthday, or treat it like it’s any other day. I really hate it when someone doesn’t really think about it, and then in the last-minute, does something as an afterthought—or simply out of a sense of obligation. I’d rather they do nothing and not even mention it.  I cannot stop myself from being hurt by all these things, year after year after year. Even at 41, I let myself get hurt by it.
Mind you, this began years ago in childhood, where my birthday was perpetually an afterthought. When I hit my 20s, it was forgotten constantly. And in the past decade, My birthday has mostly consisted of last-minute calls from someone who had to be reminded by someone else that this was my birthday; but most of the time, no acknowledgement at all. My family then gets all upset when *I* don’t make a big fuss about their ‘special’ days either. Hm.
A part of me wants to just hide at home and not be given any reminder that this is my birthday, and there’s a part of me that secretly and selfishly desires to be treated like queen for a day; to get a cake and have the people I love all around me paying me special attention just like I see other families and friends do. But when they do, I’m just embarrassed by it all and I am made anxious by all the attention.  I truly, truly, truly HATE my birthday. I hate the fuss, but want the fuss. I hate the forgetting, but wish everyone would just forget it. It’s a horrid divided feeling that I want to just go away.  When the day is over, I’ve secretly cried at least twice.
What would my ideal birthday be? A day that shows that someone listened to me, and paid attention to what I love the most—and shown an effort to fulfill that wish—not do what’s convenient for *them*. I wish to be surrounded by people who will not hurt me, or turn the day into a drama-fest about them; make me feel like their presence or efforts are an inconvenience, or like they’d rather be elsewhere.  I want to feel precious and loved and not like an afterthought. To feel special, I guess. Most of the time I do not—by my own doing in some cases, and by the way my loved ones treat me in others.
So my solution is to grump out on my birthday. To hope everyone will leave me alone, and still be sad that they do. It’s inevitable. Unless the poles reverse, pigs learn to fly,  and my family learns to give a crap about things like this, and get together in Brussels to throw me a huge regency ball with all my friends, and shower me with gifts of sidesaddles and chocolate , I will probably never be happy. LOL!
Today is probably closest to the most tolerable birthday I can have. No muss and fuss (in great quantities). My coworkers want to take me out to lunch, which is okay. They don’t go nuts, they take me where *I* want, which is always a plus, instead of taking me where they want (I have an in-law who insists on doing something for me on my birthday, asks me where I want to go, and then when the day comes, her husband exclaims that he doesn’t want to go there, and we end up going where he wants—where he proceeds to complain incessantly and dominate the conversation the whole time).  My husband is then going to take me to our favourite local restaurant where I can eat my Escargots à la Bourguignonne and a decadent dessert (maybe with a candle, maybe not) and then it’s homeward bound for bed and the rest of my week.
Today, I got lots of wishes on Facebook from friends and not-so-close-friends. It was sweet, especially from the people who I adore. I know people think the facebook birthday reminder is an exercise in thoughtlessness, but I don’t think that at least with my friends, that their wishes are in any way insincere, and for a day where I spend most of it on the edge of tears because my family doesn’t give a crap and never has, it is fortifying and touching that so many people I care about really want me to have a happy day. It’s humbling.
To top today off, Mary Robinette Kowal, author and someone I look up to, organized a month of letter-writing that went viral recently, and someone obviously said something about my upcoming birthday, and even though I am not an active participant in this letter-writing initiative, I have received a flow of lovely cards from all of my Regency friends which really touched me very deeply. It was so sweet to have all this post waiting for me filled with scripted wishes. :D
So happy birthday to me I guess. One year older. Yay.
Aaaanywhoo... Progress on my riding habit... Stalled. I sewed in the rest of the lining last night, and did so sitting on the sofa watching TV. All I had left was the collar area, and I sewed it too tightly. I’ll have to release the seam and resew so that it doesn’t distort the back, which it did. Annoying.
Also, the barn owner, Dee let me have a child’s 14” English all-purpose saddle she had lying about not being used. I will use it for S2’s girls when they come to ride Tag.  When she gave it to me, it was in this shape: 

Now, after a vigourous cleaning, it looks like this: 

How cute is that itty-bitty saddle? Teehee!  The saddle is cheap, but it’s fine. It has a tiny little fleece saddle-pad and very shabby leathers I’ll eventually replace. I put new stirrups on it.
My horse is throwing his winter coat, and he gets SO fuzzy. Last night I combed a pony off of him.  Look how long his fur is:

Sorry the pictures are so dark. My cell phone camera kind of sucks.
Annnnyway, that’s it for my birthday rant. You all have a lovely Wednesday.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bad Habit + quick office special

A quickly sketched Office Special. Yeah, I still do those occasionally.
I’m sewing. Hand-sewing. The very tip of my index finger and the side of my thumb are sore. I need a little leather cuff. ::heh heh:: The fabric is a linen/cotton blend that I have been fighting with months upon months, trying to get it to dye to the colour I want. I want a nice vibrant, deep red, and it kept coming out as reddish eggplant. I’d use colour remover, and instead of being returned to white/ivory, it was left a slate blue. I re-dyed it and it came out exactly the same weird muted red.

FINALLY, two mad scientist friends of mine told me of their experience hunched over a hot stove and pot of boiling dye, pouring in their secret potions, stirring in unknown ingredients in hopes of achieving the elusive ‘Turkey Red’ (a bluish-red of varying tones) desired by regency gown-makers. Ultimately, their experimentation culminated in their desired colour and they achieved it using a huge cooking pot they’ve consigned solely for dyeing, a bottle of vinegar, and unknown amount of salt, and about an hour of a half of vigorous boiling in whatever desired colour.

Mind you I had EIGHT yards of fabric to dye. And I do not own a huge pot. So I bribed these alchemists with a packet of my newly bought sugar pearls to help me with my indignant, obstinate, stubborn piece of fabric. They agreed. So after work I zipped to Nora’s nearby house and the task began.

Double double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble...
First Nora prepared the dye. She somehow knew the right amount of water, because none of it overflowed when she put the fabric in there. She put in the dye, whatever blend of other ingredients, I’m pretty sure she put salt in, and I know she put vinegar in it too, because she made me buy some and bring it. She got that heated up and it was time to do the fabric.

Nora enjoys her waffle.
I am still completely bewildered as to how Nora fit eight yards of fairly heavy linen into a single pot. It was like Hermione’s bottomless carpet-bag. She just started with one end, and with a kitchen utensil, she pushed it into the water, yard by yard until all eight yards were inexplicably crammed into the pot. It was funny how confident she was she could do it too... I’m like “There’s eight yards, Nora. That’s a lot of fabric!” and she’s like “I’ll get it in there,” with a smug nod and a purse of the lips. I doubted her, but god help me, she did it. Unbelievable. No dye water overflowed either. The whole thing was perplexing indeed. Then she set this thing to boil. She also took time in this madness to mix up a batch of Belgian waffles from which the three of us partook (and Nora’s husband who sort of floated downstairs when the aroma of caramelizing sugar rose up into the second floor) while the fabric ‘cooked’. I think the fabric boiled with occasional stirring for about an hour and half, maybe more, but I lost track of time gossiping, eating pasta and cheese of the most decadent and delicious form, and being obnoxious and salivating over Nora’s collection of costume books. I believe her cat, Eliza-Jane—a creature that is fabled to have clawed its way from the event-horizon of hell (which I am not so sure about since I found her sweet and cute, but you never know. Evil disguises itself well), would have flayed me if I’d tried to make off with any of her books—so that was not an option.

Too dark to tell at this point.
The fabric can be deceiving, because a number of times I’d dyed it, and when it was wet it’s exactly the colour I wanted, but when I dried it, it went to that weird blah red. When it was done boiling she hucked it into her washer, and then into the dryer, and between the two, I was dubious about how it was going to turn out dry. But when she pulled it out of the dryer, it was the dark, vibrant red I wanted. Mind you, there are some lighter spots, but I can work around that—there’s enough yardage.

Final colour. A lot more vibrant than the blah-red it was before.
So this weekend the work began to figure out the shape and look of my Regency riding habit. The bodice jacket is the most tailored piece; the rest is easy, so I used up all of my remaining muslin making mockups. It took three of them to get the right shape I wanted.

The problem with a modern dress form is the position of the breasts. The regency silhouette requires your girls to be lifted up above the chest’s empire line. Draping a regency garment, a tailored one, is a challenge when your dress form is shaped for a modern woman. It’s easy when you’re making ruched, drawstring items. It was frustrating trying to ‘predict’ the shape of my body without being able to drape it on myself wearing my regency stays. I’m no Project Runway contestant... I have questionable sewing skills at best, the only advantage I have as a seamstress is that I’m the kind of person who will just try something, and do it, even if I’m doing it wrong. I’ll experiment, and just run with whatever comes to my mind. That’s why whenever someone tells me my costume is nice, I think they’re being insincere, or if they’re genuine, I tell them not to look inside—because *I* know how slipshod it is.

I digress... at length, I figured it out, although I’m a bit annoyed by a rather abrupt seam, which thankfully, I can cover with buttons. Here’s a sketch of what I’m aiming for:

A hastily drawn facsimile of what I have planned.
My design is a blend of several extants, fashion-plates that I like. I like to look at images, but I am not the kind of person to copy things—except perhaps one day I’d like successfuly make a copy of the Danish white gown I love so.

This is possibly my favourite extant gown
on earth.

But on the most part, I make what appeals to me, and what is best suited for my body (which is still changing). I figure that ladies in the Regency were inventive and imaginative like people are today, and I would rather do something original to me than just not use my imagination and just mimic things that already exist. Boring.

The buttons are somewhat modeled off the Kyoto Institute’s navy riding habit—I also like the pointed front, but I like a shorter bodice and a narrow crew collar with no lapels. I love the shape of the back from Janet Arnold's habit, but what I'm making is not exact.  I want something simple and non-froofy—with as little fuss and muss on the neckline so my already large girls aren’t further enhanced by lapels and collars. I will also place some loops and fasteners on the skirts and waist so I can bustle the skirts rather than tie them up inside. I want to have the overly long skirts because I fully intend to ride in this habit—and I still want to be able to use it as a walking dress/travel dress.

So I finally bit the bullet and cut linen on Saturday night. I decided to use the last working mockup as lining, so it will be lined in black cotton; that was machine stitched (with white thread, good Lord), but it’s all inside so who cares? I layered some duck into the small crew collar, and I may add some to the front panels for a little structure too, we’ll see. It was hard to sew through those three layers. I may cover the crew collar in black silk velvet but I’m still on the fence about that. We’ll see.

I am not posting any photos until it’s done. Sorry. :D

Monday, February 6, 2012

Big Pony Club.

Photos courtesy of Sassy Shots' Stephanie R.
Life has been super-full and busy these past few weeks. My weight hasn’t moved since the 34lb mark, except to go up or down by a few pounds here and there. It's probably due to my being a complete hog and eating like a savage, but I could be wrong. I’m keeping an eye on it though, and trying to discipline myself (while trying not to think about the sack of Orange Milanos in my cupboard behind me). I can only say that I guess, maybe with the prettier weather, or whatever it is, that I am coming out of the weird low-grade fugue that has been hovering over me for almost two years. I’ve been inordinately grumpy, and I know this. There have been moments of better moods here and there, mostly when I’ve been intermingling with people in my comfort zone.

I haven’t been able to spend much time with my horse this past month, which is awful. He is my therapy, and being away from him makes the fugue harder to overcome. But these past few days have been kind of nice, I have to admit.

It’s strange to say this, but giving up on the whole pregnancy and adoption thing, as sad as it is, has also eliminated a surprising amount of stress. It’s weird, but not having to worry about it, and think about it makes the whole thing easier somehow. We’ve decided to let the chips fall as they may for the next couple of years, and when things get better for us financially, we can look into adoption again (hopefully with a kinder, more human caseworker on our side).

That doesn’t mean it’s not still on my mind every day. This past weekend, for instance, I spent time with two adorable girls who reminded me how much I love spending time with children, and how fulfilling it can be to be around them.

My BFF Stephanie II asked if her boyfriend’s girls could come and meet Tag, so we arranged for them to come to the stable to meet him and have a little ride. Once upon a time, when my family owned a riding club, I used to instruct. I enjoyed it immensely in spite not always being reliably committed to it during my teens, but hey, I was a teen! I’m a pretty good riding instructor, and I taught Pony-club for a long time too, working with kids and ponies. So it felt natural to work with the kids and help them feel confident around horses. Tag being a big stampy boy also helped them develop a bit of confidence too in his own way.

Tag is doing what he's known for; attempting
escape from the purgatory of grooming. He is good
at undoing knots.

When we got there, Tag was in his dirty stall looking bored. I hadn’t ridden him for a MONTH. He was pretty mellow though, thanks to the warmish day, and he behaved on the most part. He does however, look like a massive scraggle-muffin with his winter coat and uneven roach. I’ve been cutting down his mane with scissors lately because my clippers just aren’t strong enough to make it through the broom that is his mane. Nonetheless, I set out the brushes and the girls helped me brush him down (Alizabeth could only do his lower half, but she managed well enough).

Then I threw the saddle on him and let him run on the longe for a few minutes to make sure he wasn’t in one of his moods that might endanger the girls, but Tag is a pretty good horse on the most part, and usually only misbehaves when he’s challenging me and I'm making him do things he doesn't want to do, which is good because he seemed to like the doting attentions of the two girls.

Invariably, we hucked the small one into the saddle. I started by leading them. I had to twist my stirrup leathers ‘round twice for Alizebeth’s teeny legs. Her heels barely cleared the edge of the flap. LOL. Then After a long time leading, I eventually let them take the reins (when they were confident enough to let go of the pommel), and ‘steer him’. They both did wonderfully, so I unclipped his lead rope from his halter and let them ride him without my help, but with me at their side all along. They were in the saddle combined over an hour.

I did not ride myself, but I confess, I didn’t mind. I forgot how much fun and how gratifying giving riding lessons can be. And teaching them the proper way, right from the start is the way to go. I too often see new riders being taught the wrong way by instructors that obviously have been taught the wrong way themselves; stirrups too short, back too arched, stiff seat, strange positions, toes sticking out like Charlie Chaplin... it’s hard not to stick my nose in and say something, but I have to curb my tongue and let things be. I’ve gotten dirty looks at my barn several times for correcting people, which is obnoxious on my part, but when I see those bad traits being taught, I see only danger. There’s no connection when a rider is too stiff, when the back is too arched, they’re not ‘sitting deep’... it’s frustrating.

A little sitting on him bareback does wonders for balance and confidence.
It also teaches riders to relax their legs and ride long.

Both girls took to Tag’s long strides quite well, and were riding all by themselves (with me nearby of course) by the end of each lesson. They were quite proud of themselves. I was quite proud of my big boy, who behaved like an angel, as if he knew that the little people on his back were in his special care.

When the other wasn't riding, Stephanie II put them to work cleaning
Tag's stall. Nothing says lovin' like child labour!
We ended the day with a fatty dinner at the Huckleberry Inn at Government Camp. It was a nice day. When Alizabeth snuggled on me, and used my markers to colour pictures, all I wanted to do was tuck her under my arm and take her home. Get her a pony and tiny Jods and paddock boots. Sew her regency dresses and elaborate Halloween costumes.

Oh well. :) A good thing is that I went into Marshall’s and bought myself some jeans on Saturday before I hit the stable. They were on sale for $10. Two, almost three sizes down from what I wore before. That was a great feeling too.

Yeah, we’ve had some stress these past months. We were named in a lawsuit along with our insurance company (but we’re protected, they tell us), we have tight bills as usual, new boss at work, my computer died (which is AWFUL!)... but I’ve been feeling okay. Managing to muddle through.

Oh! I nearly forgot. Before all the horse stuff on Saturday, I followed my husband on his motorcycle so I could bring a new tire to the dealership for him to install on his bike. I went home via downtown Portland and stopped at Zupans to discover that they carry the Lars Belgian Sugar Pearls. Methinks some waffles are in order soon!


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